Department heads bring reports to County Board

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The Fillmore County Board of Commissioners heard from various department heads during its meeting on Tuesday, April 23, encompassing feedlots, road projects and personnel items.

The board first welcomed Feedlot Officer Mike Frauenkron who outlined the 2018 feedlot report, stating he sought the board’s acceptance of the report.

Bakke questioned the number of noncompliant feedlot reports, asking Frauenkron what constituted noncompliant reports. The feedlot officer answered that is when there were no available records from a farmer’s feedlot.

“We accept notebooks, even records on napkins…when we’re done with an inspection, we send them a letter on the noncompliant issues,” Frauenkron said.

He spoke of how he and his staff attempt to enforce feedlot regulations and make farmers aware of management practices that can improve farm operations and help them stay compliant with state and county regulations.

“The letters that I send also, we give them a specific date that they have to have things in compliance,” he added.

Frauenkron went on to relate that the number of registered feedlots is declining – that in 2019, there are 728 required to be registered and approximately 500 that will be required to register in 2020.

The board approved the report and following that vote, Frauenkron announced he had been chosen as recipient of the Minnesota Association of County Feedlot Officers’ Tina Rosenstein Award. “It’s the highest award for county feedlot officers,” he shared, showing the board his plaque.

Road projects

Highway Engineer Ron Gregg spoke about various road projects that are beginning due to snow finally departing. He began with a surface reconditioning project on County Road 115 between Trunk Highway 52 and County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 21, the reconstruction of Grosbeak Road from Trunk Highway 16 to the Lanesboro Fish Hatchery, and a bridge replacement on CSAH 12.

“We opened bids last Tuesday. The reconditioning project – a local option sales tax (LOST) project – I received only one bid from Rochester Sand & Gravel $1,139,564.74.” Prestby and Dahl motioned for the County 115 project to proceed.

Gregg continued, “The Grosbeak Road project…we received funding on this project back in April 2016, and since then, it’s been put off due to the workload over the last three years, and since then, it has grown. I would like to forego this project until I check with the DNR.”

Bakke asked Gregg how long until the highway department has to accept the lowest bid on the project, and Gregg said he thought it would be 30 to 60 days. The board chose to table the matter.

The County 12 bridge replacement project was bid on by IKON Construction, but a few issues caused the board to table that project as well.

Bakke gave a quick highway department report, including that designs for County 5 in Wykoff are in progress and that discussions are underway for the CSAH 1 Ostrander to Mower County line concrete overlay bidding.

Dahl wished Gregg well in his road construction endeavors. “I hope that you have a good construction season, no snow.”

Personnel issues

Human Resources Officer Kristina Kohn laid out hiring and retirement requests for the board’s approval. The first was to hire a temporary summer highway position and a replacement property appraiser.

She also noted senior office support specialist Audrey Inglett will be filing for early retirement under the county’s early retirement incentive program (ERIP). The board thanked Inglett for her 17 years of service – Dahl made the motion with “many, many, many thanks” for her willingness to answer all his questions.

Kohn also presented a retirement request from Deputy Kevin Beck to retire retroactive to April 4, and then sought approval to hire a replacement full-time deputy from the Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS) list. The board went on to thank Beck for his 23 years of service and approved Kohn’s request to hire a replacement deputy.

Personnel matters also included granting merit office support specialist Gretchen Schwichtenberg a promotion to senior merit office support specialist, replacing Sylvia Leitzen.

Finally, Kohn asked the board to allow paralegal Deborah Jeffers to use phased retirement to depart from the county. The board discussed at length how to navigate the first encounter with a request for a phased retirement.

Kohn explained that Jeffers would begin the end of her county employment on June 1, not work more than 1,044 hours and would no longer be eligible for county benefits, and that the county could choose to discontinue the arrangement if it so chose. Jeffers is training her replacement.

Bakke needed more information. “Is this in the (retirement) policy? The first time we had an early retirement, it was a long time until we had another one, and now everyone retires that way. We don’t have any parameters for this because we don’t have anything in the policy.”

Kohn said, “This is a different animal because they are continuing to work for the county.”

The subject of paid time off (PTO) came up, and board members felt that PTO shouldn’t be a consideration even if Jeffers were working part-time because the proposal read that a person would no longer be eligible for county benefits.

Kohn interjected that the phased retirement is part of the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) retirement plans and that Jeffers would no longer be accruing PTO.

County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman agreed that Jeffers wouldn’t accrue PTO. “It really isn’t a phased retirement – it’s a separate contract, and you don’t really need anything in there about phased retirement. It definitely could have a policy in place, but it’s a separate contract.”

Dahl asked why Jeffers didn’t simply choose to reduce her schedule to part-time. Kohn reiterated that phased retirement is a concept that PERA offers and that the retiree wouldn’t need to collect PTO benefits from the county because of those provided by PERA.

Dahl stated, “Duane’s right that we should have a policy in place because there will be more requests.”

Prestby made a motion for the retirement with the removal of particular benefits language, and the board will review the action in nine months.

Land records director

Brian Hoff, the county’s new land records director, came before the board due to his lacking state assessor certification requirements for his position.

Former assessor Cindy Blagsvedt retired Jan. 31, giving the county little to no time at present, having learned of his certification shortage, to allow Hoff to deal with the issue.

Vickerman educated the board, “By May 1, we have to have someone who is Association of Minnesota Assessors (AMA) certified, and in the meantime, Brian can work toward his AMA certification. These recommendations are from the Department of Revenue…we can contract with our former assessor if she’s willing to contract with us, or we can contract with another county if there’s someone available. There is not another board meeting prior to May 1, and we had no other option than for this to come before the board.”

Hoff cited that he was uncertain as to the penalties associated with not having certification in place and that there are documents pending that need signatures.

Dahl made a motion to have Vickerman work with Hoff to place an AMA-certified individual in the county, and Prestby made one “to explore both options – to find someone to fill the position during the 90-day period or until Brian receives his certification.”

Vickerman read the motion in condensed language, “Motion made for the approval of the lowest-cost option until Hoff receives certification.”

Other business

Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins presented a request for an access permit for a new field drive on Joseph Mitchell’s property in Carimona Township. The board voted for the permit’s granting.

 The final order of business involved negotiations with LELS union representatives, and the board chose to caucus with the union representatives instead of closing the meeting. Conversation focused on deputy pay and a recently-completed wage comparison study.

The consent agenda included approving Bre-Dun DBA Old Barn Resort and Golf Course liquor, wine and 3.2 percent liquor license for May 1, 2019 through May 1, 2020 and renewing Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center’s consumption and display liquor license for the same period of time.

A tobacco license for Gurek, Inc., of Chatfield for April 30, 2019, through September 30, 2019, was approved.

 A gambling permit for the Preston Area Chamber of Commerce for a May 19 raffle was granted and street closures for Preston’s Trout Days and the use of the east and west courthouse parking lots for Trout Days activities were also approved.